Former homeless man credits UGM Christmas dinner with saving his life
'Entering the UGM, I felt an immediate sense of relief and small glimmer of hope again'
Two years ago, Richard Lamarche was homeless, lonely and struggling with addiction. He could see no future for himself and had decided to take his own life.
While contemplating suicide in a Vancouver alley, he bumped into another homeless man who asked Lamarche to join him at the Union Gospel Mission's annual Christmas dinner.
- Union Gospel Mission giving away hundreds of 'street proof' backpacks to the homeless
- Toques, turkey, handed out at UGM's annual Christmas meal
Lamarche doubted that attending the dinner would do him any good, but in hindsight he says it likely saved his life.
"Once entering the UGM, I felt an immediate sense of relief and a small glimmer of hope again," Lamarche told Rick Cluff, host of CBC Radio One's The Early Edition.
Things have changed
"Through their help, love and encouragement, things have changed," said Lamarche.
Lamarche entered the charity's alcohol and drug recovery program. Now reunited with his family, and approaching his second anniversary of sobriety, Lamarche is a full-time employee at the UGM, where he will help serve dinner on Dec. 9.
"Christmas can be make-or-break for our homeless guests," said UGM president Bill Mollard.
"This meal could be a turning point for many, like Richard, who will connect to our life-changing supports, like addiction recovery or housing. We want them to reclaim Christmas too," Mollard said.
More than a meal
Hundreds of volunteers will be serving up 1,000 kilograms of turkey and 360 kilograms of mashed potatoes this year between the UGM's two locations in the Downtown Eastside and New Westminster.
"We will serve well over 3,000 people," said Mollard. "We put on a great Christmas meal at UGM."
For Lamarche, the dinner provided far more than just food.
"Feeling loved and valued was uplifting and reinstated my desire to try and live again."
With files from The Early Edition.